Failing to get any response from Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, senior Samajwadi Party leader Shatrudra Prakash has now written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting Centre to declare Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi as national heritage.
Prakash recently met Union Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma also in this regard, who has assured that necessary steps will be taken. If Centre grants the request, it will effectively end the nearly three-decade long Uttar Pradesh government’s control over the temple.
“I wrote four letters to CM and met him personally over the matter. I also met (SP chief) Mulayam Singh Yadav and sought his help, but nothing has been done. Now, with Modi, who is also the Varanasi MP, as PM, it is the general expectation of his voters that the temple be declared a national heritage,” Prakash, four-term MLA who was also minister in Mulayam’s government in 1989, said.
Presently, the temple is controlled by Kashi Vishwanath Nyas Parishad, which comes under the religious affairs department of UP government. “Varanasi is the cultural capital of the country. BJP keeps raising the Hindutva issue. With the party forming a majority government, it will be relatively easy for Modi to declare the temple as national heritage. Union minister Mahesh Sharma has assured me of positive results,” Prakash told The Indian Express.
SP state spokesperson and minister Rajendra Choudhary feigned ignorance on the issue. “I am not aware about any letter and request made by Shadrudra. He is, however, a leader of SP,” Choudhary stated.
The Kashi Vishwanath temple, built during the reign of Ahilyabai Holkar, the queen of Malwa, in the late 1700s, came under the control of state government in 1983 after a major theft there. “Since then the temple building has deteriorated. Precious stones have been removed from its floor and the entrance to the temple has been broken. Enamel paint on walls and acid used to wash the gold-plated domes have ruined them. It has happened when the temple is in state government’s control. It is therefore necessary that it is declared national heritage,” Prakash, who has also published a booklet —- Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir, Rashtriya Dharohar Kyon Nahin —- said.
Once declared national heritage, any repair and renovation work will be undertaken under the expert guidance of Archaeological Survey of India.
Contacted, BJP’s Varanasi unit president T Subramanium Joshi, however, claimed that the temple cannot be divided between Centre and state governments. “I am not aware about any plans on it being declared a national heritage but we want that it should be developed with proper facilities for devotees,” Joshi said.
Presently, Jagannath Temple in Puri, Suraya Temple in Konark, Dwarika temple in Gujarat, Kamakhya temple in Assam and Badrinath Dham in Uttrakhand have been declared as national heritage.